You know what? Sure. Sometimes you just gotta poke stuff and see what happens. And yeah, it seems like it doesn’t make any sense at first, but then when you just think about it for second, Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart’s announcement that he’ll be releasing an entire album of Nina Simone covers this fall makes plenty of sense. Weird, cool, messy, insane sense. You know, the best kind? Or at at least, certainly the kind in which Stewart feels right at home when making.
Either way, the album is called Nina and arrives December 3 via Graveface Records. And don’t worry, despite that NPR-ready title, the press releases assures us all (as if we needed it) that none of the covers are very straight-laced, calling it “a thank-you note, a love letter, and a kind of musical fan-fic” for the late jazz and soul icon. Come on, now; who doesn’t love the idea of Nina Simone fan-fiction?
Working again with long-time collaborator Ches Smith (whom Stewart calls “the only person I know who could understand this in his heart and also handle the technical side of fearlessly reorienting such wonderful music”), the pair apparently aimed for arrangements that are “replete with languid, discordant jazz saxophone; sedate accordion; and brisk, minimalist drums,” that are “disquieting, sometimes downright spooky.” You know, like the Seinfeld theme? They also recorded the whole album “in just one day, all in first or second takes” in order to “[capture] the immediacy of the feelings that inspired the record.” Also like the Seinfeld theme.
“But how did this whole project happen to come about?” you may be asking. And while I’d love to tell you to shut your pathetic gob and that it’s none of your business, I just happen to have the answer handy, so here:
“The idea came being back stage in Austin TX, opening for Swans and feeling like I did not play well,” Stewart explains. The night before, he and Swans’ Michael Gira had discussed Simone, their love both for her talent as a musician and her fearlessness as a civil rights activist, and how Simone inspired them to make better work. Feeling down on himself, yet inspired both by the memory of Simone and the “epic and beautiful persistence” of Gira and Swans, Stewart decided to honor Simone and challenge himself in making Nina.
Yes, as usual, Swans are the driving force for everything ever.
01. Don’t Smoke in Bed
02. Don’t Explain
03. Wild is the Wind
04. Where Can I Go Without You
05. See Line Woman
06. Just Say I Love Him
07. Four Women
08. Pirate Jenny
09. You’d Be So Nice
10. The Other Woman
11. Flo Me La